May 27th, 2006


Journey to wonderland

Freddy and Prashant came visiting today - we went into the giant tower which holds the particle accelerator; boarded a lift which took us to the top of the shaft, moved through narrow passages with `Radiation Hazard' notes posted here and there (the radiation levels are being constantly monitored by sensors) and reached the room which holds the equipment. We saw a bewildering array of giant tubes, cylinders and lots of complex looking equipment all of which were part of one "simple" scheme - to generate millions of volts of electricity and propel electrically charged particles to very hight speeds (there is a particle accelerator, though a very small one, in your TV CRT). The accelerator uses a van de graff generator.

The entrance to the accelerator room had lights which said things to the effect - `beam not active, entry safe' and `beam active' - we joked to each other as to what would happen if like in some movie all the other lights went off suddenly and the red sign which said `beam active' came on suddenly!

The huge amount of data which the accelerator generates is gathered by PC104 boards running Linux; the code has been running reliably for the past many years! No sign of MS-Windows anywhere!

On the other hand, the designers of the device do not trust software for safety critical aspects - safety measures are hard-wired and do not have any software control.